Women’s 6N: Scotland’s record winning run ends at hands of France

Last-gasp score denies hosts losing bonus point in keenly contested battle

Rhona Lloyd
Scotland winger Rhona Lloyd is tackled by the French defence. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

Scotland 5
France 15

STUART BATHGATE @ Hive Stadium

SCOTLAND’s record winning run of seven games may have come to an end, but the real story behind the scoreline is the massive improvement made by Bryan Easson’s team over the past 12 months. The last time these sides met, France won at a canter: 55-0. Here, the game was in the balance right up to the final play, in which the visitors scored their second try to rob Scotland of a bonus point.

The home team were 5-3 up at the break, and would have been further ahead but for a missed penalty and conversion by Helen Nelson, who had been successful with all of her kicks in last week’s win against Wales. But while those five points went abegging, France were denied a lot more than their eventual tally by a defiant home defence.

After the match against a team ranked No 3 in the world, Scotland captain Rachel Malcolm – whose own side climbed to a highest ever position of No 6 as a result of the victory in Cardiff – rightly expressed her pleasure at some aspects of the team’s performance. On the whole, however, she preferred to stress her disappointment at a contest which she believed could have been won. “I’m super proud of the performance in terms of the effort,” she said. “I was quite literally peeling my players off the ground at full-time.

“I can’t fault that and I can’t fault the preparation we put in. We stopped France playing the game they wanted to play. 

“But I’m disappointed, because we were quite inaccurate at times with our opportunities. Had we been more accurate that scoreline could have been in our favour – which is a pretty good place to be if you want to compare it to last year. 

“Now we’ve earned the respect. We’re sitting at the same table as these teams now. We can’t just say it’s nice we’re getting closer – we need to look at why we’re not on the right side of that scoreline.”

Scotland had the better of the opening exchanges, although they were hampered by problems in the lineout, as they had been against Wales. The quality of the French defence was just as significant a factor in preventing the home side from creating any clear-cut scoring chances, and in the end it was France who had the first real opportunity of the match.


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No 8 Romane Menager showed her power by breaking through three tackles before eventually being stopped around five metres from the Scots line. France won a penalty at the breakdown, but they kicked to touch then lost the lineout.

The opening score was only delayed, however, and it came after 13 minutes when the Scotland defence strayed offside. Lina Queyroi, the stand-off, made no mistake with the penalty from the edge of the 22 and right in front of the posts.

Nelson, Queyroi’s opposite number, had a chance to equalise minutes later when France offended close to their own posts. But the vice-captain, whose 100 per cent record off the tee had been a vital part of her team’s win in Cardiff, shanked the kick wide of the posts.

Nelson then compounded the error by kicking dead from France’s restart. The French broke well from the scrum, and several phases later looked certain to score only to knock on within metres of the line. Scotland were still under pressure on their own put-in, but France were penalised for an early push and the lines were cleared.

Towards the half-hour mark, the visitors again appeared sure to score after an opportunistic break from a tap penalty by Pauline Bourdon Sansus, the scrum-half. Some excellent offloading took the offensive up to Scotland’s line, but the defence then held it up to win the scrum.

At the other end, the Scots lineout began to function smoothly at just the right time. When a penalty was sent to touch around 25m out, Emma Wassell won clean ball and the maul advanced to a couple of metres of the line before France offended again.

Another lineout, another take by Wassell ,and this time the maul was able to complete the job, with Elis Martin touching down to put her team ahead. Nelson’s conversion attempt curled wide of the neat post again in what turned out to be the last chance of the half.

 

 

Barring the odd shower, the first 40 had been played in clement conditions, but by the time play resumed a stiff breeze had got up in France’s favour. Both that and the fierce physicality of their opponents increasingly told against Scotland, who were pinned back inside their own half for much of the second 40.

Easson’s team were further disadvantaged by the loss to injury of substitute hooker Molly Wright, who had gone down barely a minute after she had come on for Martin and was treated on the field before being carried off.  The coach later explained that Wright had been concussed and will now undergo the usual return-to-play protocols.

France had been steadily applying pressure for several minutes by the time of that change, and within a minute of the resumption they made that pressure count with their first try.  It was a simple left-to-right move from the scrum, finished off by Kelly Arbey in the corner. Queyroi missed the conversion attempt from close to the touchline, and then a few minutes later sent a penalty crashing back off a post.

Three points down going into the last quarter, Scotland kept trying to mount attacks but were invariably driven back by the defence. With just two minutes to go, they had one last chance – or rather, a half-chance at best – to hit back when awarded a scrum in their own 22. Clean ball from the set piece might at least have given Chloe Rollie a clear run at the defence, but the pack were pushed off the ball.

Finally, just as the clock went into the red, France deprived their hosts of the consolation of a losing bonus point. A long period of pressure slowly pulled the defence out of position, and in the end Emeline Gros, the replacement lock, finished off to the left of the posts. 

Queyroi’s conversion ended a match watched by a record crowd for a Scotland Women home game of more than 5,000, the previous record having been 4,862.

We’re a different side from last year,” Easson said. “I hear people saying we are brave and things like that, but we are disappointed that we didn’t win the game and that is just us being brutally honest.

“I thought we managed the game and got into good positions well in the first half especially, but it was our innacuracies off set piece that really hurt us. We were just not holding onto ball enough or being accurate enough off our launches to get one, two or three phases.

“We frustrated France. We didn’t allow them to play, so that was pleasing. But we just weren’t accurate enough at times.”

Teams –

Scotland:  M Smith (C Rollie 52 mins); R Lloyd, E Orr, L Thomson, C Grant; H Nelson, C Mattinson (M McDonald 63); L Bartlett (L Cockburn 66), E Martin (M Wright 52, Martin 53), C Belisle (E Clarke 61), E Wassell, L McMillan, R Malcolm (captain), A Stewart, E Gallagher. 

France: E Boulard; K Arbey, N Konde, G Vernier (temp rep M Bourgeois 28-38), M Menager; L Queyroi, P Bourdon Sansus (A Chambon 61); A Deshaye (A Mwayembe 52), A Sochat (M Bigot 71), A Khalfaoui (C Joyeux 66), M Feleu (captain), M Fall, A Berthoumieu (C Escudero 57), G Hermet (E Gros 64), R Menager.

Referee: Sara Cox (England).

Scorers –

Scotland: Try: Martin. 

France: Tries: Arbey, Gros. Con: Queyroi. Pen: Queyroi. 

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 0-3; 5-3 (h-t); 5-8; 5-13; 5-15.

Attendance: 5,601.


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About Stuart Bathgate 1392 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

11 Comments

  1. What a superb coach Mr Eaason must both in talent Id, team prep, team intelligence, unity etc etc etc Well Done. Romaine Menager is just a freakishly powerful player. Feel v confident we beat Ireland and Italy so 3rd place is there for taking

  2. It was a thrilling game played at a frantic pace. Well done to both teams for entertaining the crowd. Congratulations to the Scottish players and their coaches in realising just how to play a very talented French team. I felt for our ladies when France scored their final try. However, there is real momentum in the Scottish team now, and with the influx of young talent emerging from the Celtic Challenge series, along with more experienced players I feel the ladies team is blending well and in a very good position to do well in this 6 Nations and also at the World Cup next year. Keep the momentum going everyone.

  3. From where the side has been to giving the full time pro side French that much of a fright is a serious achievement in such a short space of time. Well done to all!!

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  4. Scotlands kicking , both from tee and hand was well short on quality. Lisa Thomsons technique looks really poor , she does not look like a natural kicker from hand . I always struggle to understand why players spilt kicking duties. Kicking relies on confidence as well as technique and being able to gain momentum in confidence comes from both kicking from hand and tee , one feeds the other. As we saw today both kickers had bad off days , not for the first time. I would much rather see one kicker assume all kicking duties , fair enough have a second player capable of kicking in the team should the main kicker have a significant off day. A kicker needs to get into the game and gain confidence through all types of kicking not what we currently see in mixing and matching bang average kickers both short in confidence ….

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    • Do bore off! They were excellent against top 3 on the planet ranked opponents. Moaning about quality of kicking FFS!!?!?

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      • @Rugby Fan

        I don’t buy the need to have one kicker do everything but calling out the quality of the kicking is valid. If Thomson’s clearances, Mattinson’s box kicking and Nelson’s place-kicking had all been more accurate, they could of snuck that one.

        Their defence was great and they scrapped well but ultimately have a few major work-ons before they’ll be consistently challenging the best teams. The set-piece being another one as well as a bit of composure in attack.

        It was a tense and gripping (if frustrating) game though and very proud of the improvements made by the team in the last 12 months.

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    • What an absolute load of rubbish, can think of numerous situations where the kicker from hand is not the kicker from tee, two totally different situations.

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      • Mr Milne – spoken like a true prop 😂. As an ex fly half and kicker myself I disagree. All kicking requires confidence and the more opportunities you have to generate confidence the better you will kick , if you are handing over 50% of your kicking duties then you don’t generate the momentum and confidence and this can also impact on your wider game as well. In this case I find it all the more confusing in that Lisa Thomson does not look like a natural kicker at all so why hand over touch kicking to her in that case ? I base my judgement not only on yesterday’s game but on all the r games I have watched her kick , her touch kicking is generally very poor from nearly all aspects …
        I don’t think this suggestion is rubbish at all and the facts speak for themselves , all kickers yesterday looked low on confidence but if you are not giving yourself the opportunity to gain confidence by handing over kicking duties so what do you expect ?.

  5. Well done again, ladies. Impressive commitment and unlucky not to get at least a losing bonus point. The men’s team could learn a thing or two on the coaching front and competitive commitment.

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    • I think that pretty unfair on the mens team – thought they showed a ton of commitment against Ireland in their last game.

      You don’t need to bring down the mens game to big up the women’s, they are their own entity.

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